The Carolina Panthers decided to no longer delay the inevitable and pay superstar running back Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers have signed CMC to a new deal worth $16 million per season, first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The signing effectively resets the running back market once again, as McCaffrey has passed Zeke Elliott as the highest-paid at the position in NFL history.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has echoed Schefter’s report, noting that McCaffrey’s new contract is a four-year, $64 million agreement. While the total value of the extension doesn’t top that of the six-year, $90 million deal Ezekiel Elliott signed with the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the 2019 season, the $16M average annual salary ranks first in the league, just ahead of Elliott ($15M).
The running back position and its importance has sparked several debates over the last decade, as there are now plenty of cases to be made stating that players at the position can be interchangeable, no matter the talent. Le’Veon Bell’s deal with the New York Jets is still up for debate ($52.5 million deal), and the Rams just let Todd Gurley walk to the Atlanta Falcons after giving him $45 million just two years ago. McCaffrey, however, might just be a different breed than guys like Bell, Gurley, Barkley, and Zeke. He is literally the entire Panthers offense, and has proved his athleticism by breaking the NFL record for receptions by a RB in back-to-back seasons. He’s had two straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons to go along with two straight 100-catch performances, totaling nearly 2,400 total yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019.
Upon the announcement of the extension, McCaffrey had this to say about staying in Carolina:
“I’m so excited to continue my career in Carolina,” the RB told ESPN. “I want to thank Mr. (David) Tepper, Marty Hurney, and Coach Rhule for the opportunity to help lead this great franchise, and to all my teammates for their help along the way.”
Now entering his fourth season in the NFL at a youthful 23 years of age, McCaffrey will be the no-doubt focal point of new coach Matt Rhule’s rebuild alongside Teddy Bridgewater.